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Inventory of the St. Francis Wood Virtual Collection
EDAVC-1  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: St. Francis Wood virtual collection
    Dates: 1912-1946
    Collection number: EDAVC-1
    Collector: Environmental Design Archives
    Collection Size: 197 items 197 digital objects
    Repository: Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design.
    University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley, California
    Abstract: Located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, St. Francis Wood is a prime example of the "Garden City" ideals of neighborhood planning popular at the turn of the 20th century. The St. Francis Wood Virtual collection contains digital images of drawings, photographs, correspondence and other historical documents relating to the architecture and landscape architecture of the St. Francis Wood neighborhood of San Francisco, California. All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing collections in the Environmental Design Archives
    Physical location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from materials in the collection should be discussed with the Curator.

    Preferred Citation

    St. Francis Wood virtual collection, EDAVC-1, Environmental Design Archives. College of Environmental Design. University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley, California.

    Acquisition Information

    All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing collections in the Environmental Design Archives.

    Historical Note

    Located in the southwestern corner of San Francisco, St. Francis Wood is a prime example of the "Garden City" ideals of neighborhood planning popular at the turn of the 20th century. This neighborhood is of particular interest because it encompasses designs by many well-known Bay Area architects and landscape architects. Unlike many residential developments that offered only stock plans, St. Francis Wood developers encouraged houses designed by prominent architects for specific clients. The foresight of developer Duncan McDuffie provided the neighborhood with a visual cohesiveness that remains to this day.
    The land on which St. Francis Wood was established once belonged to the Mission Dolores. However, when the Mexican government abolished the mission system in 1846, the land was granted to Mexican citizen Jose de Jesus Noe as part of a much larger piece of land called the Rancho San Miguel (4,443 acres). However, with the influx of American settlers during California's gold rush, Noe began selling off parts of his Rancho in 1852. Prior to development, this part of the city west of Mt. Sutro, Twin Peaks and Mt. Davidson was primarily sand dunes. The only uses in the area were racetracks, roadhouses, the Alms House (later Laguna Honda Hospital) and a Spring Valley Water Company flume. Some farmers rented parcels of land for growing vegetable crops, making the long trip over Twin Peaks to the markets in San Francisco. In 1880, mining magnate Adolph Sutro purchased the Rancho San Miguel and proceeded to plant thousands of trees on the land, which he kept as a nature preserve until his death in 1898. The land remained held up in a complicated probate battle over Sutro's estate until 1909.
    Developers who had been successful in establishing residential subdivisions in the East Bay after the 1906 earthquake and fire, saw in the Sutro property opportunities for providing the same types of neighborhoods in San Francisco. Homebuyers had flocked to these East Bay developments, which had been modeled on the "Garden City." With origins in England, the concept of the Garden City proposed a weaving together of urban and rural, city and country. It called for large, park-like neighborhoods of single-family detached houses, with large landscaped lots set along curving streets and with no commercial buildings. This paradigm integrated easily into the larger City Beautiful movement, which at a city scale called for grand boulevards adorned with neoclassical monuments to cut through the city and to connect a system of open spaces. The assumption of these movements was that these types of cities and neighborhoods would be healthier and safer than crowded cities of grid streets and apartment buildings.
    A strong supporter of the Garden City movement was Duncan McDuffie, a developer who had great success with his residential developments based on these ideals: the Northbrae and Claremont neighborhoods in the East Bay. McDuffie's personality was certainly suited to bringing nature into the neighborhood. He was twice president of the Sierra Club, was involved in establishing the state park system, and was a leader in the Save the Redwoods campaign. McDuffie's object with St. Francis Wood was to create "residence park," a neighborhood that not only had all the benefits of the open landscape of the East Bay but also had proximity to downtown. In 1910, McDuffie along with his business partner Joseph Mason purchased 175 acres of the Sutro estate to realize this ambition. With his eye toward quality, McDuffie hired some of the most well-known architects and landscape architects of the time to establish the layout and infrastructure of the neighborhood. The Olmsted Brothers firm laid out the curving street plan as well as the neighborhood parks. John Galen Howard acted as the first supervising architect and also designed the entrance gates, the Circle fountain and other neighborhood infrastructure. Lot buyers could hire any architect to design their houses, but they had to follow strict design guidelines, and the supervising architect had final approval.
    Despite the initial popularity of these Garden City neighborhoods in other areas around the Bay, lot sales in St. Francis Wood were nearly nonexistent in the years 1914-1919. These stagnant years nearly drove Mason-McDuffie to turn their backs on the original intent of the neighborhood. Of the many factors keeping buyers away, WWI especially slowed new home sales and made building materials costly. In addition, the lack of transportation options to this region of San Francisco made its location less than desirable. It was faster to reach downtown San Francisco by ferry from the East Bay than to reach it by streetcar from St. Francis Wood. Consequently, McDuffie and several other developers with land west of Twin Peaks lobbied fiercely for the construction of a streetcar tunnel under Twin Peaks. Their demands were met with the opening of the Twin Peaks tunnel in 1918.
    Once the Twin Peaks tunnel opened, lot sales in St. Francis Wood were brisk. In contrast to many developments in this area that often did not involve architects, St. Francis Wood boasted architectural designs of many well-known architects such as Julia Morgan, William Merchant and Gertrude Comfort Morrow and the landscape designs of Harry Shepherd. Henry H. Gutterson acted as supervising architect for most of these later homes, but many architects did not veer far from the preferred style: revivals of traditional English, French and Italian idioms. The St. Francis Wood Home Association, formed by Duncan McDuffie in 1912, took over the maintenance of the neighborhood's parks and boulevards. In 1926, 400 of the 557 lots had houses, and by the 1930s most of the lots in St. Francis Wood were sold. Today, much of Duncan McDuffie's original intent remains. St. Francis Wood is recognizably different from many of the neighborhoods that surround it. Its wide lots, curving streets and lush landscaping make the neighborhood a retreat from the rush of urban life.

    Note

    • Barnhill, Donna. San Francisco's Residential Parks: St. Francis Wood. San Francisco: CityGuides tour script.
    • Beresford, Larry. "Neighborhood Historian Sheds New Light on the Image of Jose Noe." Noe Valley Voice September 2001.
    • Brandi, Richard. Images of America: San Francisco's West Portal Neighborhoods.San Francisco: Arcadia,2005.
    • Weinstein, David. "Signature Style: Duncan McDuffie. Natural neighborhoods: visionary developer created elegant urban 'residential parks'." San Francisco Chronicle, 7 February 2004.
    • Western Neighborhoods Project. St. Francis Wood. 5 February 2004. http://www.outsidelands.org/sfw.html (viewed on 22 Sep 2005)

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The St. Francis Wood Virtual collection contains digital images of drawings, photographs, correspondence and other historical documents relating to the architecture and landscape architecture of the St. Francis Wood neighborhood of San Francisco, California. All items in this virtual collection are assembled from existing collections in the Environmental Design Archives. The collections from which items are drawn are: Henry Gutterson Collection, John Galen Howard Collection, Stafford Jory Collection, William G. Merchant/Hans U. Gerson Collection, Julia Morgan Collection, Irving F. and Gertrude Comfort Morrow Collection, Olmsted Brothers, St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association Collection, Harry W. Shepherd Collection, Walter T. Steilberg Collection, and Ward Thomas Collection. Items from the Howard and Olmsted Brothers collections express information about the early stages of neighborhood development (1912-1917), namely the street layout, parks, fountains, entrance gates and other neighborhood infrastructure. Items from the Gutterson collection relate to Gutterson's position as supervising architect for St. Francis Wood. Items from the Harry W. Shepherd collection relate to the landscape architecture of individual homes. Items from the St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association were collected by that organization for the purposes of design approval and relate to the design of numerous individual homes by many different architects. Items from all other collections relate to the architecture of individual homes in the neighborhood.

    Arrangement

    The series for this virtual collection are arranged alphabetically by architect or organization, with subseries arranged by client or project name and followed by a list of items in that project. If a project has both drawings and photographs, these are divided into separate subseries. The exception is in the case of a single photograph. In this case, only the item (photograph) is labeled, and it is included in the same subseries as the drawings. This series structure is used primarily to support linking to digital objects. Thus, it is unlike other finding aids for collections held by the Environmental Design Archives, which are organized by the Standard Series for Architecture and Landscape Design Records.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Architects--California
    Architectural drawings
    Architectural firms--California
    Architectural photographs
    Architectural records
    Architecture, Domestic--California--San Francisco Bay Area
    Architecture--California
    Gardens--California
    Landscape architects--California
    Landscape architecture drawings
    Landscape architecture--California
    Landscape photographs
    Parks--Design and construction
    Photographs
    San Francisco (Calif.)
    Women architects

    Related Collections

    Henry Gutterson Collection (1956-2), Environmental Design Archives
    John Galen Howard Collection (1955-4), Environmental Design Archives
    John Galen Howard Pictorial Collection, 1885-1920 (PIC 1967.016-1967.018), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
    Stafford Jory Collection (2005-12), Environmental Design Archives
    Mason-McDuffie Co. Records, 1904-1983 (MSS 89/12 c), The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
    William G. Merchant/Hans U. Gerson Collection (2001-15), Environmental Design Archives
    Julia Morgan Collection (1959-2), Environmental Design Archives
    Irving F. and Gertrude Comfort Morrow Collection (1992-1), Environmental Design Archives
    Olmsted Brothers Collection (1969-2), Environmental Design Archives
    St. Francis Wood Homeowners Association Collection (2005-17), Environmental Design Archives
    Harry W. Shepherd Collection (1998-11), Environmental Design Archives
    Walter T. Steilberg Collection (1973-1), Environmental Design Archives
    Ward Thomas Collection (2005-1), Environmental Design Archives